Published on April 2, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Shattering the glass ceiling
It might be well into the 21st Century, but some male-dominated industries such as brewing can have difficulty in recognising that women can do any job equally as well – and better – than men. Daisy Turnell offers a personal insight
The beer world really is a fascinating place, with a mixture of self-taught and academically trained brewers, writers, and bloggers. Add to that all of the opportunities within pubs, bars, and bottle shops, and you have an industry with a multitude of job roles helping to create something which, to me, is about far more than a pint.
My career in the industry began 18 years ago in the way the majority often do – by accident. I’d never considered a brewery to be somewhere I’d end up; working with beer in a pub setting was just something everyone did as a student.Thinking back to every meeting with a careers adviser, I guarantee that this profession never came up. Medicine, law, the usual suspects, – hospitality or brewing, no chance. I was heading down an academic path when I veered off on a different course altogether because no one seems to tell you should choose something you love doing (more that you should do something that fits with your grades or earns you a load of money). Whilst the beer community is somewhere that should be accessible to all (pubs are the perfect setting for everyone to feel at ease, putting the world to rights over a few pints), the further up the chain you get in this industry, the fewer women are visible. There are still far too many companies with all-male boards, and beneath them an all-male management team. So who are we meant to look to as inspiration in our career? It’s time for the people able to bring about change to see how blinded they are to the inequalities they allow to continue, and take notice of how the make-up of their team is excluding potential employees from ever wanting to work there, and from customers feeling a connection to them*.
With the increasing popularity of craft beer (argue amongst yourselves for the definition of that one), comes an increasing expectation from people. The craft beer sector promotes an ethos of progression and inclusivity, and it’s this foundation which has caused such a divide at times, upsetting the straight, white, male status quo. Making beer desirable to everyone is a major step towards making everyone feel comfortable to be associated with, and enjoy what’s in their glass, bottle, or can. And for the most part, the craft beer industry seems to now try to be at the forefront of a modern, empathetic society.
Does it get it right all of the time? Definitely not. But it’s great to see people make a stand and say that things need to be better for everyone, and that they’re not going to put up with excuses and those who turn a blind eye anymore.
One thing I’ve both witnessed and experienced is women having to justify their right to talk about beer (far more than men within the sector). A lot of customers still seek the advice of a male member of bar staff instead of asking any females behind a bar. Taking a look at the Twitter bio for people who work within the industry, a majority of men seem to put what they do (writer, blogger, etc); women tend to add their qualifications or awards as they continue to have to justify their position and right to a voice.
My spare time is spent running Craft Beer Newcastle as a hobby – a website and social media set up to share what’s happening in the North East pub and brewery scene. I didn’t want it to be about me – it was far more important for it to be all about the pubs, breweries, and beer community in the North East, so my name isn’t mentioned on it, which has led to the automatic assumption by those who don’t know me that it must be run by a man.
Putting the negative aspects aside, you might wonder what is it I love about the beer community. I’d have to say it’s all of the passionate people who share their love of beer and pubs, and spark an interest in a whole load of other subjects, too. I’ve been lucky enough to travel across the UK and beyond meeting so many people whose enthusiasm for everything from hops, to pubs, to the people in them, washes over you like a tidal wave of inspiration.
Whilst a lot of people are uneasy about women-only beer groups, the fact they’ve had to exist at all should tell you something about the lack of opportunities and inclusion felt by many. Meeting like-minded people who share the same passion and enthusiasm, and who go out of their way to raise each other up to celebrate their achievements instead of being made to feel that they’re in competition has definitely been a highlight of mine.
At times of feeling isolated, the pub becomes a haven, and the beer community gives you a seat at their table (which is filled with the most delicious selection of impy stouts, sours, and beer styles you’ve never heard of before).
I’m also now into my first month in a new job – after nearly two decades in the pub side of the industry I’m now working in marketing at Anarchy Brew Co. It’s been a whirlwind – I’ve never known time to fly quite so quickly), but it’s great to be part of a team who all help each other out, and everyone working in the brewery takes so much pride in what they do, it really makes you want to get up in the morning and see everyone.
If I can help influence anything here, I’d hope it’s to help us communicate better with the world as to who we all are, why we do what we do, and how we can get to know our community better. As for the future, I’m looking to complete the final part of my Beer Sommelier qualification later this year, and understand more about what happens in the best bit of my new workplace – the brewery.
I’ll also be looking for us to bring more like-minded breweries to the North East, which we’re starting with as a partner venue for Craft Beer Hour. #CBH789 features breweries less well-known in our region, starting with Blackened Sun from Milton Keynes, then Top Rope from Liverpool. And if any women are interested in getting to know more about beer, brewing, or even just fancy a chat about the industry, you’ll find me at @craftbeerncl on Twitter (I’m there a lot!).
*To those of you reading this who think equality doesn’t exist any more – maybe start with the gender pay gap figures, and wonder why the companies on there seem to be doing very little to bridge that gap. Look at industry panels, and question why there are so many more men asked to speak about their experiences, instead of choosing someone equally as experienced, whose voice might actually help to reach out to a different group of people.